Manic Mania

Manic+Mania

Charlotte Gardner

Netflix has been popping out new original content more than ever before, but the newest release of their limited series “Maniac” has stood out among the rest of the bunch.

Released on Sept. 21, the 10-episode show tells a bizarre tale of two characters, Owen Milgrim (Jonah Hill) and Annie Landsberg (Emma Stone,) as they participate in a revolutionary drug trial for the pharmaceutical company Neberdine Phartecutimal and Biotech (NPB). The show takes place in a futuristic depiction of Brooklyn, New York.

[media-credit name=”Netflix/YouTube” align=”alignright” width=”500″][/media-credit]NPB has recruited a group of people to test out a new pill system that plans to reverse any mental disorder or trauma, essentially replacing the need for therapy. The procedure consists of pills ‘A,’ ‘B’ and ‘C.’

Milgrim was drawn to the trial after NPB informed him that he would be a perfect candidate for the trial. Milgrim is introduced to the show while in an interrogation room, discussing a case pertaining to his brother, although not specified. The audience begins to realize that Milgrim sees things that differ from how they appear in reality and it is revealed that Milgrim talks to an imaginary entity, inspired by his brother who informs him of his “mission” and the changes within the “pattern” of the universe.

Landsberg, however, sneaked into the trial after becoming addicted to the “A” pill after consuming a rogue bottle.

This show was definitely confusing at first viewing, partially because of Milgrim’s appeared insanity and in part to Landsberg’s mysterious past.

The show follows along Landsberg and Milgrim as they go through each pill in the trial.

When Landsberg and Milgrim take the “A” pill, short for Agonia, they relive their most traumatic memory. For Milgrim, it was his brief psychotic episode after finding out that his girlfriend and future wife was paid to date him by his parents. Landsberg’s trauma was caused by a horrific car accident that killed her sister Ellie.

The trial resumes when they take the pills ‘B’ (behavioral), and ‘C’ (confrontation.)

This show was thoughtful, intriguing and layered beyond any new release that has recently come from Netflix.

Directed by Cary Fukunaga, this show puzzles and captivates the audience in addition to raising alarmingly relatable conversations about mental health.

Milgrim is thought to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, which causes his family to take advantage of his presumed hallucinations. Milgrim’s brother even threatens to use his mental illness as blackmail if his brother doesn’t lie for him at his trial.

Landsberg was an example of narcotic abuse, in particular, as a coping mechanism after a traumatic event. The “A” pills that Landsberg was using caused her to relive the fatal car accident in full detail each time she took it, making her feel like she is with her sister each time despite the tragic ending that Landsberg can’t forgive herself for.

“But what really made me love this show—what propelled me through all ten episodes in the span of several days and left me weeping on the couch next to my roommate’s cat—is the way it tackled mental illness,” Kara Weisenstein of VICE wrote.

“There’s still stigma around seeking treatment, therapy, and medication, when at the end of the day those are just a few of the tools at our disposal to help us live happier, healthier, more balanced and productive lives,” Weisenstein wrote. “Not having access to those tools—or not feeling empowered to use them—is one of the reasons people self-medicate, both with drugs and alcohol, but also in myriad other nuanced, sometimes toxic ways.”

The brutally-honest approach to these characters’ struggles with their demons doesn’t attempt to sugar coat any aspect of mental illness. Family struggles and addiction associated with living with mental disorders are factors that are barely touched upon in media, and are referenced in very exaggerated or false ways if attempted (take “Split” for example.)

Another aspect of the show that was extremely enthralling was the amount of characters Stone and Hill had to become during the show.

As they take the remaining pills, Milgrim and Landsberg are thrown into dream sequences that are constructed out of their trauma. By mistake, the computer system containing all of the trial data fuses Landsberg and Milgrim’s sequences together, meaning that the characters share these sequences with one another.

These sequences vary from Landsberg and Milgrim being a married couple from Long Island who have to save a lemur that Landsberg’s simulated persona, Linda, needed to give to a daughter of her nursing home patient, to Landsberg and Milgrim becoming con artists in the 1920’s.

In total, Stone and Hill played five different characters during the dream sequences. These ever-changing scenes added rich depth to the series because it felt like a completely new show during each one.

Within every episode, there is so much symbolism and references to Stone and Hill’s characters that paying attention is vital.

With an average 7.69 rating out of 10 on Rotten Tomatoes, this show begs the audience for understanding and patience as it takes you on the journeys to healing.